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22 Retrospective Ideas for Ambitious Teams

What Went Well Retrospective Cover Image

You might crave spaghetti, sushi, or sandwiches. But eat the same dish daily, and you’ll begin to hate the food you once loved.

Retrospectives aren’t that different. Running the same retro format over and over turns the meeting into an agonizing affair. In this article, we serve up 22 retro ideas and templates to keep your Agile buffet fresh and interesting.

What is a retrospective?

A retrospective is a meeting where teams come together to look back at past events and uncover achievements, mistakes, friction, and lessons. The goal of a retrospective is to “plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness” of the work performed. 

You may also hear a retrospective being referred to as a project post-mortem or a lessons learned meeting.

Besides these common characteristics, there are many ways to hold a retrospective. Some retrospective formats focus more on successes than failures, and others emphasize team building and fun.

scrum guide definition of sprint retrospectives

Scrum teams hold a retrospective at the end of every Sprint. In traditional project management environments, a retrospective, lessons learned, or post-mortem may take place monthly, quarterly, or ad hoc at the end of large projects. 

What are the benefits of retrospectives?

Here are the main reasons why it’s helpful to run retrospectives with your agile team:

  • 🎓 Learn quickly from missteps – Retrospectives speed up learning and prevent you from repeating the same mistakes. 
  • 💪 Improve team resilience – Tackling problems head-on and finding solutions helps teams improve the quality and efficiency of their work, while building the muscle to respond well to difficult situations. 
  • 🔍 Bond through transparency – When team members are open and honest with each other, their bonds grow stronger. 
  • 🧠 Maintain psychological hygiene – Retros provide teams with a healthy outlet when something is frustrating but also an opportunity to give kudos when things have gone well. 
  • 🌱 Evolve as a team – Retrospectives require teammates to show a level of vulnerability that forges more meaningful relationships. 

👩🏾‍🎓 For more details on a retrospective’s benefits and how to run the event, check out How to Run an Online Sprint Retrospective.

22 retrospective ideas for agile teams

The list below contains many retrospective formats to keep your meetings fresh: fun retros, agile classics, analytical deep-dives, and simple and fast meeting structures.

Parabol’s favorite retrospective ideas for remote teams

The retro formats we, as a remote team, particularly enjoy and can recommend for any distributed team.

1. DAKI (Drop Add Keep Improve)

DAKI retrospective meetings prompt teams to discuss what practices to Drop and Add and what to Keep and Improve. DAKI retros help you think deeply about processes and identify what’s serving you well and what isn’t.

DAKI retrospective cover image

⏰ A DAKI retro works well to unearth good and bad work processes. Such insights are handy when you:

  • Need a refresh or reset after working together for a long time.
  • Fail to meet the Sprint Goal.

👉️ Learn more about DAKI retros.

2. Energy Levels

An Energy Levels retro lets you assess how your team feels about their work. You discuss what tasks give people energy and which ones drain it. When working in intensive Sprints, this retro format is also a great way to measure the team’s energy levels before the next work cycle kicks off. 

Energy levels retrospective

What builds energy for some might sap energy from others. In that case, you can begin a discussion about trading tasks, so everyone can do work that energizes them. 

⏰ Energy Levels retrospectives are a great fit to counter or reverse slumps, especially when you:

  • Reach a large project’s mid-point.
  • Notice the team’s speed, progress, or morale decreasing.

👉️ Learn more about Energy Levels retrospectives.

3. Mountain Climber

The Mountain Climber retrospective portrays your last Sprint or project as a mountain hike. What hurdles, risks, and aids did you encounter on your ascent, and how did you overcome them?

mountain climber retrospective

⏰ A Mountain Climber retro is helpful after a tricky Sprint or project. You can also climb a range of mountains and continually recalibrate your team’s practices by running this format multiple times in a short period. With its “Path Guide” prompt you can also dig a little into the data. 

👉️ Learn more about the Mountain Climber retro.

Classic agile retrospectives

These retros are… retro! They’ve been around almost as long as agile itself – can’t go wrong with these. 

4. Glad Sad Mad

The Glad Sad Mad retro is a tension finder with its “sad” and “mad” categories while keeping an eye out for bright spots as well with “glad.” Running one of these retrospective meetings helps you locate where the team’s stress creates problems in your process.

glad sad mad retrospective cover

⏰ A Glad Sad Mad retrospective is helpful when you want to:

  • Establish healthy team dynamics.
  • Improve group morale.
  • Refine processes, so in your next Sprint, they work the same in practice as in theory. 

👉️ Learn more about the Glad Sad Mad format.

5. Start Stop Continue

Start Stop Continue is the simplest team exercise to enable continuous improvement. Its premise is straightforward: identify practices to start with, those you want to stop doing, and existing ones to continue.

start stop continue retrospective cover

⏰ The Start Stop Continue retrospective works well when you want to: 

  • Gather effective, valuable, and immediate feedback from a Scrum Team on a project or process.
  • Iterate on your team’s workflow or recurring projects.

👉️ Learn more about the Start Stop Continue format.

6. Lean Coffee

Small coffee group chats inspired the Lean Coffee format. Participants build an agenda on the spot and start talking. A Lean Coffee retro aims to come up with takeaways or action items that resolve a specific issue or push forward the team’s work. 

Lean Coffee Meetings cover image

⏰ Lean Coffee retrospectives are great when you need to:

  • Discuss topics you couldn’t get to or fit in a more formal retrospective event.
  • Zoom in on a specific issue and want to discover which aspects of the topic the team values since everyone gets to vote on the meeting’s agenda.

👉️ Learn more about the Lean Coffee format.

7. Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For (4Ls) 

The 4Ls or Four Ls retro lets you discover what your team liked, learned, lacked, and longed for. Unlike the resolute language of a Start, Stop, Continue retro, 4Ls allows for more nuance. Its format is less about immediate solutions and more about fact-finding, leading to broader, sweeping changes or subtle tweaks for your next iteration.

4ls sprint retrospective cover

⏰ 4Ls might be a good fit if you want to: 

  • Gather data on a process, project, or event you plan to repeat but aren’t looking to transform completely.
  • Find out how your team feels about a large change or new process you’ve put in place.

👉️ Learn more about the 4Ls retrospective format.

8. Meta-retrospective

You can gather feedback from people outside the Scrum Team with the Meta-retrospective format. It works for people unfamiliar with agile and can handle more than 15 participants. You can plan a Meta-retro on a one-off basis after hitting a specific milestone or as a quarterly event. 

⏰ A Meta-retrospective is helpful when you want to:

  • Invite stakeholders and other people who aren’t invited to a Scrum Team’s regular Sprint Retrospective.
  • Encourage collaboration between teams or across an organization.
  • Zoom out from reviewing one sprint to looking at broader business goals or challenges.

👉️ Learn more about the Meta-retrospective format on Age of Product.

Fun retrospective ideas

Why have a boring retrospective if you can have a fun one instead? Enjoyment guaranteed with these formats.

9. Sailboat retrospective

The Sailboat retro visualizes the team on a boat, steering past craggy rocks on a course to paradise – what’s not to like? This format is almost game-like as it turns obstacles into objects to sail past and goals into tropical finish lines. 

Sailboat retrospective

⏰ Hold a Sailboat retrospective when you’d like to:

  • Use its visual imagery to get people to think outside the box and develop creative solutions.
  • Look forward instead of just backward.
  • Build camaraderie as your team imagines themselves as a ship’s crew.

👉️ Learn more about the Sailboat retrospective format.

10. Three Little Pigs retrospective

The Three Little Pigs retrospective uses a classic fairy tale to inspect your product or project’s state, quality, and challenges. Your team members indicate what’s made of straw, sticks, or bricks. 

three little pigs retrospective

⏰ The Three Little Pigs retro is great for assessing weak points in a project, product, or process and the severity of those shortcomings. 

👉️ Learn more about the Three Little Pigs retrospective format.

11. Winning Streak retrospective

Repeated wins don’t happen by chance but come from intelligent reflection. This retro template helps you analyze your big wins, so you can replicate what made them successful. 

Winning Streak retrospective

⏰ You use the Winning Streak retrospective format after a win, of course! Make sure to run this retro type while memories of a recent success are still fresh. 

👉️ Learn more about the Winning Streak retrospective format.

12. Hot Air Balloon retrospective

With this retrospective or futurespective format, your team enters an imaginary hot air balloon. You discuss the hot air that helped you reach new heights during the previous Sprint and the sandbags that dragged you down. You’ll also look ahead at expected storm clouds and sunny skies.

hot air balloon retrospective

⏰ The Hot Air Balloon retrospective works wonders when you: 

  • Want to look both backward and forward in one retrospective meeting.
  • Are at a pivotal moment, like at the end of a big project or year-end.
  • Want to take a bird’s-eye view of your work.

👉️ Learn more about the Hot Air Balloon retrospective format.

13. Halloween retrospective

Familiar topics like wins and project blockers are dressed up in this Halloween retrospective. Ghosts, zombies, brains, and candy are on the agenda points for this seasonal retro – showing up in costume is not required but highly recommended, and please share your spooky pictures with us if you do.

⏰ You do this retrospective format on Halloween, of course, and can combine it with other fun activities. Ask people to set their screen names to their favorite horror movie monster. Or send out candy vouchers, so you can all enjoy a sugar rush during the meeting. 

👉️ Learn more about the Halloween retrospective format.

Simple and fast retrospective ideas

Sometimes you want to run a quick and efficient retrospective to process learnings quickly. Here are a selection of short and quick templates to speed up your continuous improvement.

14. Speed Car retrospective

This retro is lightning-fast and action-oriented, ideal for zeroing in on ways to improve. Your team creates valuable insights into working better, faster, and stronger with just two prompts. 

⏰ You can use the Speed Car retro to: 

👉️ Learn more about the Speed Car retrospective format.

15. Working & Stuck retrospective

The Working & Stuck retrospective simply lets your team categorize what’s working and what’s stuck. They can then use that list to figure out how to do more of what’s working and solve what’s stuck. 

Working and Stuck retrospective cover image

⏰ Working & Stuck retrospectives are great when your team is stuck or you just finished a project or Sprint that hobbled across the finish line. 

👉️ Learn more about the Working & Stuck retrospective format.

16. Rose Thorn Bud retrospective

The Rose Thorn Bud retro is short yet powerful. Your team gets a chance to look ahead with the buds element, while thorns make talking about their challenges a little less scary. 

Decorative cover image showing a single rose in a glass case

⏰ Use a Rose Thorn Bud retrospective when you want to: 

  • Have a nice and simple format you can regularly fall back on for your retros.
  • Use the poetic quality of roses to foster a contemplative spirit.
  • Check in on thorny issues in a lightweight manner.

👉️ Learn more about the Rose Thorn Bud retrospective format.

17. What Went Well retrospective

Not all retrospectives need a complex template. A What Went Well retro helps Scrum teams focus on how they felt about their performance during a Sprint. Its two prompts streamline your retrospective meeting, boost team members’ self-esteem, and diagnose pain points. 

What Went Well Retrospective Cover Image

⏰ What Went Well retrospectives are helpful when you need to: 

  • Focus on outcomes over feelings.
  • Leave room for broad conversations within a lightweight meeting format.
  • Have a post-mortem-style retrospective.

👉️ Learn more about the What Went Well retrospective format.

Analytical retrospective ideas

Want to look a little deeper into your working process? These retrospectives will help you take a more analytical approach to your work.

18. Starfish retrospective

Starfish retros give teams more nuance when looking back. Start, Stop, Continue is a great format, but it can miss details. Starfish’s additions of “More of” and “Less of” categories encourage team members to think in gradations rather than absolute terms. 

Starfish Retrospective

⏰ Try the Starfish retrospective format for a more pointed and nuanced discussion based on its five prompts. 

👉️ Learn more about the Starfish retrospective format.

19. SWOT retrospective

SWOT analysis helps you look inward at your team’s strengths and weaknesses. But it also encourages you to look outward at external factors you’ll need to contend with or take advantage of. 

swot analysis meeting template

⏰ The SWOT retrospective is a solid choice when looking at the big picture at the start or end of a project. 

👉️ Learn more about the SWOT retrospective format.

20. Marie Kondo retrospective

Marie Kondo’s method for organizing your house promises everyone a clean, fresh, and serenely organized living space. With this retrospective format, you take a cue from her approach. First, ask for every technique, process, and tool and if it brings your team joy. Then decide to keep or discard the item. 

Decorative image showing a neatly organized bento box

⏰ A Marie Kondo retrospective is great when you: 

  • Look back over a long period, like one year.
  • Feel your processes and tools need some spring cleaning.

👉️ Learn more about the Marie Kondo retrospective format.

21. Six Thinking Hats retrospective

The Six Thinking Hats format uses a design-thinking framework that deepens creative and critical-thinking processes. It prompts participants to see a situation from different perspectives by wearing a range of fun, colorful thinking hats. 

six thinking hats retrospective

⏰ Six Thinking Hats is an excellent retro format when you want to: 

  • Examine all sides of a situation.
  • Reflect on a project or problem thoroughly.

👉️ Learn more about the Six Thinking Hats retrospective format.

22. WRAP retrospective

A WRAP retro avoids negative language while examining your project from every angle. It’s a way to look at the good and the bad but in a friendlier, less intimidating way than some other retrospective formats like Start Stop Continue or Glad Sad Mad. It also includes specific prompts for Wishes and Puzzles, which often reveal insights that aren’t probed by other templates. 

⏰ A WRAP retrospective works well when you’ve just come off an intense or challenging project or Sprint and want to unpack it together in an optimistic, in-depth way. 

👉️ Learn more about the WRAP retrospective format

Retrospective game ideas

To give your retrospectives an even more creative and out-of-the-ordinary spin, consider these eight remote retrospective game ideas:

Build your own retrospective template

If you’ve checked out all the other retrospective templates and none of them quite fit your team, try building your own retrospective format with Parabol.

Custom retrospective cover

Maybe you want to do something metaphorical like the Sailboat retro but not with all the nautical stuff. Or you need a decisive approach like Start, Stop, Continue but with the data-gathering component of the “Learned” category from the Four Ls retro. 

If you want to add a Kudos section to your retrospectives, you can do that as well! 

With Parabol’s retrospective template builder, it’s really up to you. You create the categories and can save the template, so you can use it with your team as many times as you like. 

We love seeing people like you build unique retro formats with Parabol! Feel free to jump in and craft your own, in whatever language you like!

More ingredients to keep your retros fresh

Switching retro formats is the easiest way to keep the event fresh and worthwhile. Here are some other resources if you’re looking for even more value and variety for your next retrospective.

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